Pop: A bit of existential slickness
Friday 20 August 1999
HAVING RE-INVENTED themselves as a dark, pop-opera quartet, former trip-hoppers Archive are currently de rigueur for your average French music fan. With a Sartre-like flair for universal themes, the London-based outfit's latest album Take My Head gets existential about love. Over here in France, it has already shifted over 40,000 units, prompting key Gallic magazine Les Inrockuptibles to feature the band on two consecutive covers. Naturally, they had the most prestigious slot on La Route Du Rock's Saturday-night bill.
Taking the stage as darkness fell on the castle grounds which played host to the festival, they began with "You Make Me Feel". The song segued between a manic synth figure and a section in which singer Suzanne Wooder led two backing-vocalists in a Baroque-sounding vocal canon. The juxtaposition of eras and styles conspired with the setting to magical effect, and as a crescent moon appeared above the castle, you couldn't help feeling a bit Mystic Meg.
Wooder conducted her dialogue with the audience in perfect French, while keyboard-player Darius Keeler kept a low profile stage-right. Keeler is the band's songwriting linchpin and an extremely gifted composer.
As "Big Fish" ably demonstrated, he likes to shaft the sonic Zeitgeist, but the hymnal quality of his organ counterpoint on "Take My Head" suggested that Johann Sebastian Bach was as likely a source of inspiration as any superstar DJ.
This classical sensibility - which was also evident in the suspensions which featured in Keeler's string arrangements - made for some symphonic-sounding, occasionally affecting pop music.
Later highlights included "Headspace", in which Wooder added some acid- jazz flute to Keeler's deliciously drowsy Fender Rhodes, and "The Pain Get Worse", in which the aforementioned backing vocalists proved they could handle the kind of gospel-inspired oomph which fired Pink Floyd's "Great Gig In The Sky". From time to time, Wooder would throw odd dance shapes, possibly the result of a fleeting interest in mime. Marcel Marceau still has a lot to answer for.
In stark contrast to your average field of Glastonbury reprobates, the audience was orderly throughout. No moshing. No flying bottles of piss. No acid-fuelled gibberish and no bare-breasted women hoisted up on shoulders. If you can imagine such a thing, their response to Archive was politely ecstatic. It was a bit like being at the Proms.
Perhaps their overall performance was a little slick for some people's tastes, but there were moments during the evening when Archive were both innovative and intoxicating enough to suggest that they will be amongst 21st-century-pop's front-runners.
Portishead-lite ? Au contraire.
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor are reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: George Lucas admits he hasn't seen The Force Awakens trailer
Star Wars: Rogue One trailer: Watch the teaser for the Jedi-less Death Star heist film
Avengers: Age of Ultron: 'After credits' scene leaks online
Groundhog Day musical to premiere at Old Vic from Matilda theatre director
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate